Warren Gatland will be back in Cardiff after the World Cup for one last match – against Wales.
The Rugby Paper understands the 55-year-old New Zealander has accepted an offer from the Barbarians to coach the famous touring team against Wales at the Principality Stadium scheduled for November 30 although yet to be officially announced.
The occasion, scheduled to take place four weeks after the World Cup final in Yokohama, will mark Wayne Pivac’s debut as head coach and Gatland’s final bow 12 years after his appointment. Whatever his fate in Japan, it has all the ingredients for a 74,500 sell-out.
Gatland last coached a team against Wales 17 years ago, in what turned out to be his penultimate match in charge of Ireland, a 2001 Six Nations fixture delayed by the foot-and-mouth epidemic until the following October.
Ireland smashed Wales by a record margin, 36-6, and ambushed another of Sir Clive Woodward’s Grand Slams in Dublin seven days later. The IRFU showed their gratitude by sacking Gatland and promoting Eddie O’Sullivan in his place as head coach.
Gatland has long acknowledged that it was the making of him, paving the way for his reinvention in the English game by taking Wasps to an English-European double before Wales gave him a route back into Test rugby as a direct consequence of their early knock-out from the 2007 World Cup.
Pivac, whose four-year contract starts from next July, will begin by going head-to-head with his compatriot against dangerous opponents.
Far from disappearing as a relic from the amateur era, the Baa-baas are enjoying a renaissance in their traditional pursuit of the running game.
They beat Argentina at Twickenham at the start of the month thanks to a late drop goal from Springbok stand-off Elton Jantjies, six months after running riot at the same venue in a nine-try romp against an England XV.
Gatland has a maximum schedule of 16 matches before ending the longest of all international stints – the Six Nations, four late summer friendlies and seven at the World Cup, provided the No. 3 team in the world live up to their billing and reach the last four.
Home matches against England in February and Ireland a month later offer Wales a realistic chance of their first Six Nations title under Gatland since the last Grand Slam, seven years ago.
They then play the same countries home-and-away starting in August as rehearsals for the really serious business in Japan, kicking off against Georgia in Toyota on September 23.
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